Guest post: Making the leap from journalism to PR

In this guest post, Monira Matin explores her transition from journalism to public relations, what challenges she faced during it, and what she enjoys most about the agency life.

September will mark two years since I made the switch to PR, or as journalists put it – joined the ‘dark side’.

Despite being a path well-travelled by many journos before me, I underestimated how tough yet worthwhile and thrilling the transition to PR would be. Coming from the other side of the divide, I assumed PR just involved writing ad-hoc commentary and taking journalists out to cool events, with the odd media briefing thrown into the mix. In reality, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First and foremost, coming into an agency, I found the level of planning and the sheer volume of work involved something I had never encountered before. As a journalist, although I regularly followed an editorial calendar, the best part of working in a news room environment is never knowing what story will break that day and the rush you get from scooping an exclusive and scrambling to publish ahead of competing publications.

Coming into an agency, I found the level of planning and the sheer volume of work involved something I had never encountered before

However, I quickly learned that the cornerstone of any successful PR programme or campaign is meticulous planning and execution, with activity mapped out at least three to six months in advance. Multiply that across a number of different clients, whether consumer or B2B, across a range of sectors, and I soon began to realise the tremendous skill, dedication and added value to businesses the profession brings.

During the first six months of agency life, although I was in permanent ‘deer in the headlights’ mode, I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much so quickly. From newsjacking, to running campaigns, organising events, crisis comms and almost everything in between – I found I really loved the creativity, fast-paced environment and variety of work involved and seeing how my hard work translated into producing tangible results for clients.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, one of the reasons I believe I was able to adjust to and thrive as an account manager is because I was determined, from the outset, to go in with a ‘thick skin’ by taking on board all feedback and never saying no to any tasks sent my way. My background certainly helped in terms of copywriting and content creation, particularly in spotting a ‘news hook’ that journalists will respond to.

One of the reasons I believe I was able to adjust to and thrive as an account manager is because I was determined, from the outset, to go in with a ‘thick skin’ by taking on board all feedback

I was also and still am hell-bent not to be afraid of things I don’t know as like many industries, you only learn by doing. To become an expert, you rinse and repeat.

Along the way, my ‘can do’ attitude has stood me in good stead, allowing me to learn a multitude of new skills to round out my experience and draw on the expertise of my incredible colleagues – many of whom are some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with.

Taking the time to build good client and journalist relationships has also been instrumental in achieving a new level of confidence, helping me to play a more active part in client meetings, presenting results or a new campaign idea.

I’m a firm believer of ‘taking the bull by the horns’ when it comes to my own professional development and have spent time identifying any skills and experience gaps I may have and seeking out training to address them.

The focus now is very much on taking a more strategic approach to ensure everything we do is not only original and creative but also feeds into a client’s wider business objectives as I believe this will be key to unlocking the next of stage of my career.

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Monira Matin is account manager at Whistle PR. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.